Martell Webster's curious decision proves costly as Wolves fall in OT
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Martell Webster's mental blunder late in overtime Monday night potentially cost the Minnesota Timberwolves a chance to tie the score, and the Denver Nuggets ended the Wolves' three-game winning streak with a 103-101 victory at the Pepsi Center.
That wasn't the only bad news for the Wolves, who lost center Nikola Pekovic in the opening half because of a sprained ankle. He will be re-evaluated on Tuesday.
In a game that featured plenty of twists and turns, Webster made the play that had everyone scratching their heads. With 3.9 seconds left in overtime and the Nuggets up 102-99, Webster stole the in-bounds pass by Denver point guard Julyan Stone.
But instead of taking a three-point shot in an attempt to tie the score, Webster raced in for a dunk that made it a one-point Wolves' deficit with only 1.3 seconds left. A perplexed Ricky Rubio fouled former Timberwolf Corey Brewer with 0.5 seconds left.
Rubio wasn't the only player wondering what Webster was thinking when he passed up the three-point attempt. It appeared Webster had lost track of the situation.
"We talked about we needed a three," Wolves coach Rick Adelman told reporters. "He just caught the ball, stole it and maybe emotions got the best of him."
Webster evidently thought he could drive to the basketball and possibly draw a foul.
"If I had to do it over again, yeah, I'd probably pull up for a jump shot," Webster said, per the Associated Press. "But what was going through my mind was go to the rim and possibly get fouled. The contingency to that shot was get a bucket, get a foul, they miss free throws and we get another shot. It didn't work out that way."
The Wolves (16-17) slipped a game below .500 and trail the Nuggets and Memphis for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference by two games.
The Wolves, who played their first overtime game of the season, haven't won in an extra session since January 2010. It was the second time in two nights the Nuggets had gone to overtime. They lost to Oklahoma City, 124-118, on Sunday.
The Wolves jumped out to a 30-18 lead after the first quarter and were up 38-24 at one point in the second quarter before Denver began to rally.
Pekovic, who has been so good for the Wolves since taking over as the starting center, had seven points and seven rebounds in the first quarter, including six boards on offense. The Wolves also held a 9-0 edge in second-chance points in the opening quarter.
The Nuggets went on a 13-2 run and cut the Wolves lead to 40-37 midway through the second quarter. Brewer's fast-break basket with 4:20 left gave Denver its first lead of the game (41-40) since the opening minutes, and the Nuggets were up 51-46 at halftime.
The Wolves' Kevin Love, who had a rough game in Sunday's victory over Philadelphia before scoring 12 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter and hitting the winning free throws just before the horn, had only four points and eight rebounds in the opening 24 minutes on Monday.
He finished with a team-high 22 points and 13 rebounds.
Denver had a 69-59 lead after Arron Afflalo hit a jump shot in the third quarter, but Webster quickly made a three-point basket and drew a foul for a four-point play with 4:02 left, making it 69-63.
Rubio pulled the Wolves within 76-73 by making a floater at the buzzer to end the quarter.
The Wolves appeared to have a clear advantage after the Nuggets lost starting point guard Ty Lawson in the first half because of a sprained ankle and then saw Lawson's backup, Andre Miller, tossed from the game after getting two technical fouls for arguing.
That left Stone, who signed with the Nuggets in 2011 after going undrafted, handling the point.
The Wolves took the lead 80-78 with 8:52 left in the fourth thanks to a 13-2 run that began with 1:05 remaining in the previous quarter.
Al Harrington, who had a game-high 31 points off the bench for the Nuggets but missed all five of his free-throw attempts, made a three-pointer with 1:39 left in the fourth to tie the score at 93. That came after Michael Beasley's layup had given the Wolves a three-point edge.
Harrington's shot would end up forcing overtime as neither team would make another basket before the horn sounded to end regulation. Luke Ridnour had a great chance for the Wolves with 40.9 seconds left but could not convert. Afflalo missed a jump shot with 0.8 seconds left.
The overtime was just as ugly as neither team scored for the first three minutes. Harrington and Rubio finally exchanged baskets but Afflalo's jumper with 33.7 seconds left gave the Nuggets a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
"It's a tough loss," Adelman said. "We played hard. We just didn't make shots when we needed to."
The Wolves were in control of the game early but things came apart in the second quarter and the Nuggets grabbed the opportunity to get on a roll.
"I just don't think we played very good offensively in the first half at all," Adelman said "The second quarter especially. We played better and moved the ball better in the second half."
• 17: Points off the bench for Beasley in Monday's loss.
• 33: Minutes for Beasley, who had a combined 30 minutes of playing time in the past two games before Monday.
• 10: Consecutive games in which Pekovic had scored in double figures, a streak that came to an end Monday when he was injured.
• 3: The Nuggets' losing streak entering Monday's game.
• 7: The Nuggets' winning streak against the Wolves in the series.
• 9: The Nuggets' winning streak against the Wolves in Denver.
Pekovic was replaced to start the third quarter by veteran Brad Miller. Ordinarily, Darko Milicic would have come in for Pekovic but the oft-injured Milicic suffered a strained stomach muscle in playing the final one-tenth of a second on Sunday night against Philadelphia and was not with the team.
The Nuggets also suffered a key injury in the first half as point guard Ty Lawson was lost to a sprained ankle. Lawson's backup, Andre Miller, was thrown out of the game late in the third quarter after being assessed two technical fouls.
The Nuggets already were missing Danilo Gallinari (left ankle), Nene (left calf strain) and Rudy Fernandez (lower back strain).
Malcolm Lee, who played in three games with Sioux Falls in the NBA Developmental League, has yet to appear in a game for the Wolves. Lee had surgery on Dec. 30 to repair a torn meniscus and has been practicing, but Adelman has not found a situation to get him into a game.
The Wolves will face the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night at Target Center in the second meeting of the season between the teams. The Jazz beat the Wolves, 108-98, on Jan. 21 in Salt Lake City.
The Jazz lost to San Antonio, 106-102, on Monday night and at 15-16 are, like the Wolves, two games back of the Nuggets and Memphis in the race for the final playoff berth in the Western Conference.
After Wednesday's game, most of the Wolves will get six days off for the All-Star break.